The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees named Judy Bonner as the first permanent woman president of The University of Alabama at a specially called meeting Thursday. Bonner is the third person to serve as UA president this year.
The decision comes after UA President Guy Bailey resigned abruptly Wednesday after only two months on the job, citing his wife’s health.
UA System Chancellor Robert Witt recommended Bonner to the board for the position, and the board approved the motion unanimously.
Bonner received a standing ovation before offering remarks to the room.
“Thank you so much for allowing me to have this opportunity to serve the University of Alabama in yet another way,” Bonner said. “We will build on the progress of the last decade. We will maintain the momentum. We will do everything in our power to make you proud of your university.”
Bonner previously served as the first female acting president of UA in her role as interim president, following Witt’s move to chancellor of the UA system in March 2012. Before being named chancellor, Witt served as UA president for nine years, and Bonner served under him as provost.
Bonner then served as interim president until Bailey’s arrival on campus in September 2012, at which time she returned to the role of provost.
The provost is the university’s second-highest ranking administrator, responsible for overseeing all of its academic programs.
Bonner holds two degrees from UA – a bachelor’s in nutrition and a master’s in food and nutrition, and a doctorate in human nutrition from The Ohio State University. Bonner began her career at the University as head of the Department of Human Nutrition and Hospitality Management before being hired as the assistant academic vice president and special assistant to the president.
Beginning in 1989, Bonner served as dean of the College of Human Environmental Sciences before being promoted to provost and vice president for academic affairs in 2003. She was promoted to executive vice president and provost of the University in 2006, where she remained before serving as interim president.
Bonner said she would name her replacement as provost soon.
“I will name an interim relatively quickly so that we can move on to have a national search,” she told reporters after delivering remarks to the trustees.
She said the UA System has asked that interims not be candidates for the positions they hold, meaning the interim provost won’t be a contender to hold the job permanently. She said that policy was not in place when she served as interim president, but she chose not to be a candidate during the search that led to Bailey’s selection.
“I was serving as provost and as interim president and I felt that I had enough balls in the air that I did not need to be a candidate for the position at that time,” she said.
This time, Witt reached out to Bonner directly and asked her to consider serving as UA president.
“Chancellor Witt asked me if I would be willing to consider this opportunity and I said, ‘Of course,’” she said. “I have always been wiling to do whatever The University of Alabama needed me to do and I’m honored to have this opportunity.”
Bonner, 65, is a native of Wilcox County, Ala., and the sister of U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, the chairman of the U.S. House Ethics Committee.
“Judy has devoted much of her life to The University of Alabama and she has been fortunate to have worked with so many wonderful people – students, faculty, administrators and staff – who love the University, as she does, and who are committed to building on the momentum and progress of the past several years,” the congressman said in a statement. “Our family is especially grateful to the Board of Trustees and Dr. Witt for giving her this opportunity and for putting their trust in her. She will work her heart out to make certain that The University of Alabama’s future is bright.”
Bonner said she was honored to be UA’s first female president.
“I’m proud to be a role model if I can for women students at The University of Alabama but I certainly want to work with all students at The University of Alabama,” she said.